When pianist, Min Kwon, asked me to write her a piece based on the patriotic song "America the Beautiful", I resisted at first, given that I'm not a big fan of American patriotic songs in general. However, this tune is one of the better ones. And it lends itself very well to variation. I found myself making it more part of the subliminal fabric of my piece "To be Beautiful", rather than have it stick out in an obvious way. I also found that composing this during the time of Covid and all sorts of political strife was most influential to the troubled and distinctive character that the piece presents.
Born and raised in New York, Composer/Vocalist/Conductor Charles Coleman has lived an extraordinary musical life that began as a boy soprano in the Metropolitan Opera and most recently triumphed when the London Symphony Orchestra performed his two works Drenched and Bach Inspired.
After a brief apprenticeship in musical composition at the Turtle Bay Music School he entered the Manhattan School of Music where he earned his Masters Degree studying with composers David Noon and Eric Lundborg. At Manhattan he met Kristjan Järvi with whom, he and Gene Pritsker, founded The Absolute Ensemble. Coleman was named Composer-in-Residence of the Ensemble in 1997.
Coleman has written more than 100 compositions starting with Five Songs of Mother Goose (1993) for Soprano and Piano which was published by Vanguard Music in 1993. Young Words for Chamber Ensemble was commissioned in 1995 by Litchfield Performing Arts of Connecticut and was choreographed by the Pilobolus Dance Company. Elegy (1995) for String Orchestra , Westside Nocturne (1997) for Solo Piano and Pastorale (1999) for Flute, Cello and Guitar (1999).
After his funky Rut Strut for Chamber Ensemble was performed in the New York Public Theatre’s Joe’s Pub in 2000, Coleman received a commission to write a major symphonic work celebrating the opening of The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 2001-2002 season with its then new Music Director, Paavo Järvi. Streetscape for Full Orchestra – a furious walk through the streets of Coleman’s native Manhattan, was first performed on September 14, 2001 in Cincinnati, three days after the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Many commissions followed including Pavement (2002) with the Dogs of Desire chamber orchestra conducted by David Alan Miller. Red Oak Dawn (2006) premiered by New Jersey Symphony conducted by Neeme Järvi. His Violin Concerto (2013) commissioned by Violinist, Tatiana Berman and the Constella Music Festival. And his orchestral works Drenched (2018) and Bach Inspired (2018) commissioned by the MDR Symphony Orchestra of Leipzig and later that year, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra led by Kristjan Järvi.
In early 2007, Coleman spent five weeks as the resident composer of the Cincinnati Symphony teaching, composing and lecturing as part of "Music Alive," a program that partners the "Meet the Composer" Foundation with the American Symphony Orchestra League. The main event of this residency featured the Cincinnati Symphony commissioned world premiere of his Deep Woods, performed on May 3, 2007 at the CSO Music Hall conducted by Paavo Järvi. Coleman returned to New York the following week to premiere his new chamber opera, Redemption, commissioned by Golden Fleece Ltd.
Coleman’s work as a composer, arranger and producer has appears on many recordings, notably “Absolute Mix” (CCn’C 00702) which won the German Record Critics Award in the year 2000. For more information and audio clips, please visit Charles Coleman’s website:
As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents. They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization. Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor. Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility. In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far. CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward". I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities, whom we felt we could easily move forward.
- Min Kwon